What is Alteryx User Group?
As a consultant using mainly Alteryx day to day, I am always eager to join the Alteryx User Group sessions. Alteryx User Groups are independent volunteer organisations created, organised and run by users who get together locally and virtually throughout the year. These type of sessions facilitate like minded people to meet and network with peers, share ideas, experiences and best practices.
Just yesterday, 14th December, I attended the first in person Alteryx User Group at The Information Lab Netherlands’ office. The session had two guest speakers, with the first describing their experience with performing financial analyses using Alteryx. This was followed by a second session where Alteryx Cloud was demonstrated to the group. In this blog I will give a brief summary of the interesting parts of the session!
Alteryx with Finance
This talk kicked off by highlighting how many financial firms are heavily involved with excel. Although excel is considered the holy grail within the financial sector, there are many downfalls to using it as a main data processing and manipulation tool. Including:
- Horrible long formulas that are hard to read
- Referencing different sheets that are not easy to find
- Not transparent processing of data, hard to tell what is happening at different stages
- Susceptible to errors
- Person dependent, as if one person has configured the formulas, only they will really understand what is happening
With this in mind, it was emphasised that Alteryx can be the perfect solution to counteract these pitfalls whilst maintaining the desired excel outputs. The first call of action when speaking to a financial firm or company is to convince them to move away from excel as soon as possible. This can prove to be a difficult task, as excel has been a constant for a lot of companies for decades. Many are afraid of the change, but once the benefits of Alteryx have been explained, it is possible to help nudge them into trying Alteryx out. Some of the benefits of Alteryx that will help someone with a financial background to see why it would be valuable are as follows:
- The ease of automation, meaning the same analysis does not have to be performed monthly but just once and then scheduled.
- More robust
- Easier to adjust, unlike formulas in excel
- Less person dependent, as Alteryx has clear tools per manipulation and lots of labelling and metadata capabilities
These points have typically worked well to convince customers to make the switch. However, the key point is to train the staff. This is imperative as although going in and solving the data problems as a consultant initially is great, the aim is to aid customers in becoming self sufficient.
Following this, we were then taken through some use cases with examples of how Alteryx has helped specific customers. One key use case showed an automation of the P&L (profit and loss) reports. A task that could, if produced weekly, take a few hours per week for a the finance team. Alteryx once adopted by the company, made this task go from a weekly task to a one off project that then ran not just weekly but daily. The output was still in the excel format as before, so the CFO could view the data as normal. With templates and maintaining formatting, different slices and pivots can be implemented to allow further investigation of numbers.
From the use cases, there was feedback given by multiple clients which was highlighted in this session. The majority of the feedback was positive, which reinforced the idea that Alteryx can and does help clients in the financial sector. Here was some of that feedback:
- Its a time saver where it matters the most
- Day 5 is the busiest day, and automation helps here
- Automation of all the financial processes has meant the max workload can increase
- No formulas errors
- Can add quick fixes, last minute which is not usually possible in excel
- Excel flexibility still remains, as the outputs are the same in excel
- However, problems / errors are easily adjusted within Alteryx if it is doing all the background work
Alteryx Cloud Session
After the first talk, there was another session which walked through Alteryx Cloud. This was very insightful too and highlighted the differences as well as benefits between Alteryx Designer and Alteryx Cloud. Most of this talk was more of a demonstration, however there still were still some key takeaways that I got from it.
Alteryx Cloud differentiates to Alteryx Designer in the sense where instead of being a multi-purpose tool where you can perform lots of different analyses, it is more purpose built. On Cloud Native, modules have been created in order to address specific problems, for example there are modules available including:
- Machine Learning
- Location Intelligence
Another aspect, which I found particularly interesting was the AI suggested tips. For example, if you have string a field called DATE which has the date formatted like so: 20230101 (YYYYMMdd), and you want to extract only the year. If you were to highlight in the data the YYYY part of the data in one of the cells, a suggested tip would be “left([DATE],4)”. This is great for users that are less proficient with code.
Overall, the first in person Alteryx User Group was really insightful and gave the opportunity not only to hear about Alteryx in different use cases but also some further insights to the cloud based platform. If you think that a group like this would be something you are interested in (and you are located in the Netherlands) take a look at the following link to check out when the next event is!
Thank you for reading this blog. Also check out our other blogs page to view more blogs on Tableau, Alteryx, and Snowflake here.
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